Monday, November 23, 2009

Facebooking Puts Health Insurance At Peril?

Well, if you read the headline, you'd think that someone putting their life story on Facebook, complete with pictures, is sufficient to cause an health insurance company to drop their coverage.
The Quebec woman, Nathalie Blanchard, has seen her case gain widespread attention since it came to the attention of local media last week.

Blanchard said an insurance agent told her that the long-term disability cheques were terminated after photos of her on the popular social networking website came to the attention of the insurance company.

Blanchard, 29, has been on leave since Valentine's Day 2008 from her job at IBM in Bromont, Que, battling severe depression.

The company in question, insurance giant Manulife, declined to comment on the case specifically but has said in a statement: "we would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook."

Blanchard's battle comes as another Facebook-related blunder left the Liberals dealing with controversy on the weekend after Janine Krieber, the wife of former leader Stephane Dion, posted comments of Facebook criticizing current boss Michael Ignatieff.

Carmi Levy, a technology expert says these recent incidents involving Facebook postings should serve as a reminder that nothing is truly private on the net.

"In this day and age, where everyone is a broadcaster through Twitter, Facebook or other social media, it never ceases to amaze me how unaware people are of the implications of something such as a Twitter update or a Facebook update," Levy said in a telephone interview Sunday.
However, the story is much more than that.

It goes to how people maintain their Facebook account, who can view their information, as well as an insurance company's due diligence to determine whether someone is actually bilking the company.

I will take each in turns.

Nathalie Blanchard was diagnosed with depression and the insurer covered her medical disability. She also happened to maintain a Facebook account, and she posted photos of herself on a vacation, at a Chippendales bar show, and at her birthday party.

The company apparently denied her further claims based on the photos.

The company was right to conduct due diligence but it did not go nearly far enough. It's in the insurance company's best interest to weed out fraudulent claims since it raises costs for everyone.

However, someone under care for depression can have a good day, or even a series of good days; its potentially a sign that they are receiving the appropriate level of care. It is not necessarily a sign of fraud. The insurance company should have checked her medical records with her physicians to determine whether there was fraudulent activity here.

For her part, she apparently allowed anyone to view her profile and see all her photos, which means that anyone can use that information against her, including an insurance company.

She's hired a lawyer and is suing the insurance company for $275,000.

This case highlights the need for individuals to understand the risks of posting information online, and understanding the privacy ratings and settings on social networking sites and on the Internet in general. It also shows the lengths to which companies will go to seek out information on their employees or insureds.

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